If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Brian Buchanan of Enter the Haggis, whose latest LP, Whitelake, is out now. You can hear a song from the album below — after reading Brian’s Desert Island picks, of course!
This was damned near impossible (in reality, I’d just make five mix CDs). ETH fans might be surprised not to see any celtic or folk albums on this list, but I’ve grown up a fan of rock music and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I think I’ll fill up an iPod Nano and have it surgically implanted under my skin so that I never have to make this kind of choice.. but If I had to listen to just five albums for the rest of time, this list would be close:
Mezzanine, by Massive Attack
I was introduced to this album by a high school friend and musical collaborator shortly after I left home for the first time. He played me “Teardrop” in his car one night after a show (many people would know it as the theme song from House M.D.), and it just about made me quit music forever. The organic sounds mixed with tasteful and brilliant electronic production make for an unbelievable sonic tapestry, which would be enough on its own — but the songwriting is top notch, too. (Check out “Inertia Creeps.” Amazing.)
This is one of those albums you’ve heard a thousand times without knowing it, in movies and TV shows for the last decade or more, and it’d be my downtempo/electronic pick. RUNNERS UP (even though I know this is cheating): Homogenic, by Bjork; The Fragile, by Nine Inch Nails; Simple Things, by Zero 7.
Siamese Dream, by The Smashing Pumpkins
I started listening to popular music in the mid-Nineties, right in the middle of the “alternative” explosion. It took me awhile to get my head around Billy Corgan’s voice, but the songs he wrote were so carefully crafted and so intricate. I was raised on classical music, and even today I have a real weakness for well-orchestrated and multi-layered music. I learned how to play every note of this album on guitar, and I still probably throw it on once every couple of weeks. “Soma” and “Geek USA” are just stupidly good songs. RUNNERS UP: Throwing Copper, by Live; Rage Against The Machine, by Rage Against The Machine.
Elgar Violin Concerto and The Lark Ascending, by Hilary Hahn
I don’t think there’s a violinist alive with more ludicrous chops than Hilary Hahn. From a purely technical standpoint, the third movement of Elgar’s Violin Concerto is just ridiculous, and she plays it like it’s a warm-up. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to this concerto when I first bought this CD, but it’s the only disc I’ve ever worn out.
If that wasn’t enough, her performance of Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” is the kind of musical experience that can change who you are as a listener. I don’t know how else to describe it. I’d pick this album because it’s one of the only things I’d run back into a housefire to save. RUNNERS UP: Rachmaninov Piano Concertos 2 & 3, by Tamas Vasary; Schoenberg; Sibelius: Violin Concertos by Hilary Hahn.
OK Computer, by Radiohead
I’m not going to say anything about this album that a million other people haven’t written over the last decade and a half. I’ll just say that it was a huge influence on me as a writer and musician (and continues to be) and that “Subterranean Homesick Alien” is one of the greatest recordings EVER EVER EVER. Nuff said. RUNNERS UP: Grace, by Jeff Buckley; (), by Sigur Ros; Boxer, by the National, Funeral by Arcade Fire.
Scenery and Fish, by I Mother Earth
This was the hardest pick of the bunch but I felt like I needed at least one harder-rocking Canadian album. This is the best album by one of the best rock bands to come out of Canada. Edwin sings his heart out, Jag Tanna rocks some of the most innovative guitar lines recorded before or since, and the sheer joy and virtuosity with which all parts are performed is audible proof that pop music can still be progressive. “Used To Be Alright” and “One More Astronaut” are two rock songs which, although overplayed in Canada, deserved much wider airplay than they got internationally, and “Earth, Sky and C” is just epic. This is the rock album I play for people who think “Canadian rock” means Nickelback and Sum 41. RUNNERS UP: Edges of Twilight, by The Tea Party; Billy Talent III, by Billy Talent; In Loving Memory Of, by Big Wreck.
Not a bad desert island playlist, right? See how many of those influences you can pinpoint in the Whitelake track “Devil’s Son,” embedded below — then stream the entire album for free at the band’s website.[youtube id=”Rpy5JmsgRX8″ width=”600″ height=”350″]